Alumni profile

Sandra Nicholson

Bachelor of Arts (Art History), 1982

Distinguished Victoria Police career

Sandra Nicholson's achievements over 35 years with Victoria Police are remarkable – for both the ground she covered and the impact that she has had on so many people, within and beyond the police force.

She joined Victoria Police in 1975, and after just two years in the job, was appointed Divisional Detective at the Russell Street Criminal Investigation Branch.

She went on to become the first female lecturer at the Detective Training School, and in 1996 was appointed first female District Inspector in Melbourne’s western suburbs.

It was also Sandra’s region, the western suburbs, which housed the first Family Violence Unit – an initiative later rolled out across the state.

“One of the main purposes of my job was to identify initiatives and then support them if I felt they could better things for the community," Sandra said.

"We set up a unit that attended violence against women and children in the first instance, rather than sending the divisional van there, determining what happened and then calling in different services.

“Violence against women and children – I hate calling it domestic, and I hate calling it family. I think [those words] in front of the violence softens the impact of it. 

"Violence against women and children will remain as long as women remain unequal, and I think that’s what we need to address.”

Sandra has lent her voice to successfully lobby for change to all levels of the justice system, and mentored women – and men – who have gone on to have successful careers within the Police Force.

Sandra was recognised with an Australian Police Medal in 2004 and was inducted into the Victorian Honour Roll of Women in 2008. At the time of retiring in 2010, Sandra was the highest ranking woman in Victoria Police.

Today, she maintains a close connection to La Trobe as former Chair of the La Trobe University Alumni – Art History Chapter. The group raise money for La Trobe students studying art subjects, and coordinate the annual Rae Alexander Lecture at the National Gallery of Victoria.

Sandra is an advocate for living and studying on campus, as she did in her time at La Trobe.

“I loved campus life and I encourage everybody to study on campus. The best part about studying on campus is the interactions with other students that you have," she said. 

Sandra has been a board member at The Youth Junction Incorporated and currently chairs the Westgate Branch Committee of the Blue Ribbon Foundation. 

She is also the National Co-convenor of an international female crime writers’/readers’ organisation, Sisters in Crime. This organisation was established in 1991 to promote female crime writing in Australia.

Distinguished Arts, social sciences and communications

Last updated: 9th May 2019